One of the things that has become clear to me over the past five years is that principals who aren’t happy with the way things are going often have no further to look for a reason than the person sitting behind their desk.
Not the visitor’s side of the desk. YOUR side.
This column isn’t intended to unfairly cast a negative look towards principals. What it is, however, is a reminder why outcomes are as they may be.
Take for example, teacher teams and teacher-leaders, the topic we’ve been looking at over the past few days.
On occasion, I’ll visit a school and the principal will share with me that one or more of her teams aren’t working well. Team members aren’t pulling together. There are some members of the team who are being negative. The buy-in is shallow and not deep.
When I inquire about who is in charge of the team, it often is someone who the principal really doesn’t have confidence in to lead the team. Sometimes it’s because the team leader doesn’t really have the dispositions for leadership. One example is the team-leader who hates conflict and doesn’t want to make anyone mad (and ends up doing all of the heavy lifting on their own just to keep peace). Another is the team-leader who doesn’t care if everybody is mad and bulls ahead without building consensus.
The problem is when the principal knows what the problem is and doesn’t do what’s necessary to remedy it. Assigning someone to a leadership position isn’t enough to help them be prepared to lead. It takes ongoing support, encouragement, and direction. This is where some principals miss the mark.
You can’t always get what you want. Sometimes you don’t have ready-made leaders available to drop into each spot where a leader is needed. What you do always get is what you’ve put into a situation. If, as the principal, you haven’t worked to help your teacher-leaders grow, that’s what you’ll get: outcomes that match your input.
If, however, you’ve established a routine of supporting and coaching your teacher-leaders through their development, you’ll still get an outcome that matches your input, but that outcome will be more of what you were hoping for.
In short, as far as teacher-leaders and their efficacy, you typically will get out what you put in. If you are fortunate to have ready-made leaders who require little from you to get going, consider yourself lucky, but make time to keep their development going.
What I’m suggesting is this: if you want more effective teacher-leaders, you most likely will need to be intentional and explicit in your support and development of them for that role. Across the landscape, this is the exception and not the rule. If we want our schools to progress as they should, we need to change it around. It should be rare to find a principal who doesn’t have a strong teacher-leader development program.
If we do, we’ll have teacher teams that work collaboratively to improve instruction and carry out the school’s mission. Without it, we’ll be hit or miss with the effectiveness of our teacher teams.